Category Archives: Gaming Life

We Finished the First Pathfinder Adventure Path!

So, we finished. The last adventure presented some difficulties that had some players in our six-player game left with no cards at the start of their turn. The few lucky players that had cards left were able to make up the difference though, but it wasn’t the most fun packed into the half hour it took to finish.

At six players, the villains, henchmen, and largely banes do not present much of a real challenge because other players can make up the difference by playing cards to help you.

So that last adventure, had I not started with one particular card and one other player had not had one particular card might have been difficult, but we breezed through it. It was largely anticlimactic beating it so easily and gaining loot we were never going to use.

Still, it was a fun experience. What I think the game needs is some resolution for the characters sort of like the 90’s fighter video games, where when you defeat the game you get a video of what the character does afterward which is unique to each character. I wanted an epilogue for Ezren, but alas, I guess I have to make up my own. Maybe he finally embraces the gods and is allowed a blessing.

No! That’s not good. I’ll think about it. What are your epilogues for your favorite Pathfinder characters?

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Maybe the recently announced Organized Play will provide more closure.

Rise of the Runelords: the Last Adventure

pathfinder_rise_of_the_runelords_set_pack6Well, we did it. We reached the end of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords. My game group has played through the entire adventure path together (for the most part) are are ready to face the final adventure tonight. It’s strange, because this game has two very different experiences for me, the feeling of flipping over cards and facing challenges and the meta game of advancing through the game, adding new (better) cards to your deck, and checking boxes.

And it all ends tonight with one game. Honestly, we are breezing through these adventures with the final roll against the villain reaching the high 50s because everyone adds all the help cards left in their hands. The villains are actually the easiest part, at least in our group of 5 (playing with a smaller group is much tougher).

Because I was missing one adventure (a blank checkbox!) I borrowed the game and played solo, which was a much different experience for me. I don’t often play board games solo, but I enjoyed Pathfinder solo. I did have to use two characters to complete the scenario. I played a few more time with other characters, though with the all of the various decks so thin, getting a lower character anything new to add to their deck was difficult and I didn’t want to mess with changing the deck and having to change them back.

Solo, the game felt like a puzzle game. I had to figure out how to defeat certain combination with the limited resources that I had available. One time my character actually got stuck at a location because of a move condition on a location and a nasty barrier both requiring my lowest skills. I finagled some decent rolls to pass both test, but I couldn’t roll high enough to get past them.

With 5 players, generally you can get past any obstacles quickly, and the challenge level is fairly low. I guess I actually enjoyed the solo game play a bit more. Honestly, it was the meta leveling game that kept me interested in the game for so long.

After tonight, we’ll be finished with the Rise of the Runelords, but we have Skull and Shackles already waiting. I’m sure the experience will be largely the same, which isn’t necessarily bad, but I’m not sure we’ll all be itching to jump into brand new characters and start over.

If you’ve finished the Rise of the Runelords, let me know your impressions and I’ll give you mine after tonight.

Khans of Tarkir Prerelease Recap (Magic: the Gathering)

WallpaperTwitter_KTK_Art_Abzan_SymbolPrereleases for new Magic: the Gathering sets are awesome and the Khans of Tarkir did not let me down. Khans of Tarkir is centered around five clans or houses on the plane (or realm/planet) of Tarkir. Each clan contains cards of three of the colors of magic, which together are referred to as ‘wedges.’ Because Wizards of the Coast puts so much effort into the design and development of each set, the clans have a unique identity, feel, mechanic, and play style.

Wizards even put a personality quiz on their website testing which of the clan you would belong to. Turns out that I was aligned with the Abzan clan, the white, black, and green guild, who are centered on trust, duty, and family, focusing on the dragon aspect of endurance. Perfect.

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Side Note 1: my 6-year-old son took the same quiz and was also Abzan. He was excited to have an identity in the game that daddy plays and to have the same identity as his father was great for us both. Suddenly he was excited about the game and it became more than just dozens of stacks of cards on the computer desk.

Before starting the tournament, each player chooses a clan and receives a clan box containing a special “seeded” pack with cards in your clan and colors. Also in the box are 5 other booster packs, a d20, a pin with the clan’s logo, a clan description card, a goal card, and a sticker. On top of that, the store I play at provides pizza and card sleeves. In my estimation, that is real value.

Side Note 2: Shout out to Game Grid in North Ogden, UT for running a great tournament. The owner, Jamie, is a gamer’s gamer, playing along side everyone else. He cares more about his players than he does about making a few extra bucks. All of the players there are friendly and helpful. I did not observe any negative treatment of any other players. Great job!

So, I chose Abzan and opened my special Abzan box and found Anafenza, the Abzan Kahn (or clan leader) waiting for me in all her foiled, date-stamped glory. I opened the other 5 packs and found some other great rares, though only one of them made it into my deck because the others were in the wrong colors. I made an adequate Abzan deck and shuffled up.

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I got beat the first two rounds, unfortunately, but managed to win the last three rounds. Abzan has the ability to be down to 4 or 5 life and then swing with huge lifelink creatures and suddenly be at 25 life. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t do better, but I got two prize packs. In one of the packs was another Anafenza, so I was pretty content.

Overall, it was a great event and fun. I love how Magic can create an identity for players to relate to and experience. The players can embrace or reject the theme as with any game, but for me, this is what makes Prereleases great. The three-color combination of white, black, green now has a name and an identity. I love how playing in those colors will carry those through this block and for the next several years. Go Abzan!

Magic: the Gathering for Player Who Just Don’t Get the Magic

 

This post is for those gamers who haven’t quite embraced the magnificence of Magic: the Gathering (including my co-hosts). So this is my humble attempt to explain why I love Magic.

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I get it. Buying random packs can be frustrating. Magic is expensive. Playing competitively can take all the fun out of the game. The number of rules and cards is staggering. I get how it may not seem worth it to give Magic a shot. I understand all of those concerns. I do.

But I’m just going to put it this out there: Magic: the Gathering is the greatest game in the world! I’m going to tell you why.

It’s simple: Wizards of the Coast has been redesigning the game and tweaking the rules, systems, art, formats, and releases over and over for the last 20 years. Let me stress that again. Magic has 20 YEARS of design and development! What other game has that kind of research and development packed into the game?

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Millions of people have been playing Chess and Go for thousands of years, and both games haven’t changed at all. The games are finite. The sandbox is too small. Don’t get me wrong, I love those game and appreciate their perfection. But you rarely get a new experience out of those games.

With Magic, the experience changes with each new set released, by format played, by each new opponent and the deck that person chooses to play. Magic is a game that you can put your own personality into. You get to choose largely what play experience you want to have.

I’m going to illustrate what I’m talking about in my next post. If I’ve tweaked your interest at all, read that one too. It’s about my experience at the last Magic expansion prerelease tournament. The Prereleases are my favorite Magic event, and generally the only ones I attend.

I know it costs money, but for the last 5 or so years, my friend, Thomas, and I have been selling off cards to buy into the next set. It’s not a perfect system, but we’ve been playing Magic extremely cheap for a long time now.

One last thing: that art!Art_KTK_Art_Abzan_Burley

OK. I’m done. If you don’t want to like Magic, I’m cool with that. Let’s play some board games.

What board games do you play on your phone?

A friend asked me the other day what games I played on my phone. I was, after years of playing endless runners and bubble poppers, finally able to say that I only play board games on my phone. I guess I’m making the assumption that the Scrabble and Boggle variants count as board games since they originated as such. If you don’t consider those board games, then my entire premise is flawed.Cell

So, board games on the phone. I play quite a bit of Stone Age and Thunderstone, and I would probably play Can’t Stop if the display didn’t cut off most of the game board and controls, which has the negative effect of limiting my plays on my computer at home, because any unfinished games will later pop up on my phone and cause my phone gaming to come to a unpleasant halt. I also play the occasional Roll Through the Ages and To Court the King.

I could be playing other board games, but there is something about playing Stone Age and Thunderstone online and asynchronous that keeps me coming back. I don’t really like to play Thunderstone in real life. The setup and down time between turns makes it less fun for me. Online it takes a few seconds or up to a minute to take a turn, depending on how many clicks you have to make.

Stone Age is a game that I enjoy both online and offline. I love work placement games, and Stone Age is so balanced and variable that I don’t get sick of playing, not yet anyway. Because I can play many games at once and a ton over a short period of time, I get to vary the strategies I employ. There is enough luck to the game, though, that it keeps things interesting.

I love word game, but they do not get to the game table at game night, so online play is great.

What about you? What are you playing on your phone?

Do you have a Will-Not-Play list?

NOBSGI mention on one of our podcast episodes that I have a Will-Not-Play game list. I imagine that we all have a list going (maybe in the back of our mind) of games that we’d rather not play, but does everyone have a complete Will-Not-Play list?

I have very specific reasons I wont play the games on my list for each game, but it boils down to the fact that I have had very poor experiences playing the game and see in the future a high probability of that same experience occurring again if I were to play the game. I have no problems playing a game I don’t like all that much. That isn’t what my list is about. This list is for games that I just can’t participate in.

We try to stay positive here at Meeple Nation because we like to celebrate all things board games, so I’m not going to write my list in this blog post. Many of my Will-Not-Play games are in the top 25 rated games on Board Game Geek, so many many people disagree with me. Really a lot of people disagree with me. My co-podcasters mostly love the games on my list.

Still, I’m happy to pass on a game night when I know that the bulk of the night is going to be Battlestar Galactica, knowing my friends will likely be pretending to enjoy the game while they enjoy each other’s company. We have friends that come when we role-play and pass when we don’t. That is pretty much the same to me.

Luckily, many of my Will-Not-Play games have fallen out of favor or simply do not get to the table anymore. It’s a non-issue most of the time, and really it is a short list to start with. All except for Battlestar.

So I’m interested in what my fellow podcasters think about having a Will-Not-Play list and if they have and hold to their own list. Also, let us know what you think in the comments below. Do you have a list, or will you play anything that gets to the table?

Salt Lake City Comic Con Recap

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The Aquabats and Darth Vader as moderator

Instead of writing a blog post last week, I went to Salt Lake City Comic Con. I would have loved to participate in the board game part of the convention, but I just didn’t have time. I will cover what I did get to see, and I hope you find it interesting.

So, the first part of the convention was the line. The whole outside of the convention was chaos. No one knew what line was for what and many people, including my wife, stood for an hour in the wrong line. The real line was another 2 hours, though after an hour and a half, I jumped out of line and went up to the booth to buy a ticket and got our wristbands. Finally we were in, just in time to see Ron Perlman, who was great. Then we stayed for the Aquabats, which I hadn’t experience before. They tried to be clever by having Darth Vader be the moderator, but it just didn’t work. They played too much video. My wife hated it. With the main floor closing, we decided to call it a night. Not a great start for my wife’s first comic con.

Friday was much better. I got there early, with Nathan, and waited in the main line. Nathan was in the gold line, which was supposed to get in at 10. My line got in at 11. I think Nathan got inside at like 10:30 and I got in at 11:07. We walked around the booths for a while before heading to the main ballroom for panels. We weren’t going to miss us some Bruce Campbell, so we went to half of Vic Mignogna, who was great. He really knew how to work a room and had the girls swooning.

Ryan's pic from Comic con
Jelly

And then there was Bruce. Other than starting late, this was the best panel for me. He entered strong in his bright yellow jacket and stated that since he was in Utah he was going to keep it clean. It was a joke he made even better by keeping it going to the end, even with half the crowd encouraging him to break his rule. He wanted to bring up some talented people on stage to interview them. Really Utah, we couldn’t get anyone in that crowd with some actual talent on the stage. Still, Bruce kept it going and made it great anyway.

After Bruce, we stayed for Eliza Dushku, Alan Tudyk, and Manu Bennett. All were great. Then we stayed for the Napoleon Dynamite Reunion, which was OK, but could have been epic. Shame they didn’t play it up more. My wife and I went to the Thriller – Odyssey Dance Theatre panel, where they performed several dance numbers from their production. This was fabulous and I recommend going to their events. We ended the night with Lou Ferrigno who was great. 

On Saturday we brought our kids and it was very crowded, but we did make it to see Stan Lee, who is great. He is personable and his persona is funny, his stories well stated and he seems so sincere. We did brave the crowded main hall, and I was just grateful that I didn’t loose a kid in that crowd.

So, I recommend Salt Lake Comic Con, but mostly I recommend Friday at comic con. The crowds are manageable, the lines are shorter, and the experience is better in my opinion.

Is Pathfinder an experience game?

As I was playing Pathfinder: Adventure Card Game last night, I wondered if I would classify the game as an “Experience” game. I know that my term is arbitrary because all game are trying to provide an experience to the players. King of Tokyo provides a great experience for me, but that doesn’t fit in my definition. It is too competitive and too short, with clear goals and clean rules.

Maybe ‘experience’ isn’t the right term, but that is what I’m working with. Eldritch Horror is my poster child. Losing collectively is a likely and perfectly acceptable outcome for your 2-3 hour commitment to playing that game. You played for the experience it provided. So, does Pathfinder count as an experience game?

I don’t think it is, and the only reason I have is that the game doesn’t reset after you finish playing. There are goals and rewards that carry over to the next game. There was a reason for playing if only to advance toward a greater meta goal of completely the campaign. Even in a solid loss, you might have acquired a new card for your deck. And there is always the possibility of your character, the avatar that you worked hard to advance, dying.

Real consequences. Progression. Completion.

In Eldritch Horror, if you character dies or goes insane you simply start a new character. This game does something else very cool with character deaths. Instead of just dying, the character, in some state of misfortune, can be encountered by other characters and become part of the story or experience of the game.Pathfinder

Last night, I wanted to play the new version of Pathfinder, Skull & Shackles, but I was informed that we would not be playing until we completed the Rise of the Runelords. Before I continue, I have to say that Pathfinder is not among my favorite games. I don’t mind playing, but I’m usually not the one suggesting it. With that said, I wanted to get through the Rise of the Runelords so we could try the new one. So I asked to play it.

So we played. And then we lost. No progress was made. We got no closer to completing the Rise of the Runelords. I don’t think anyone ever got new cards for their deck. It wasn’t a waste of time. It was ok fun. And I learned something else about this game. It plays better with 4 players than with 6 players.

After two people bailed, we played the scenario again, and the game was fast and smooth. We completed the scenario this time and got quite a few new cards in our decks. Most importantly, we checked off a little box that gets me a little closer to playing Skull & Shackles.

The Arkham Horror Experience

Arkham Horror is a great themed experience disguised as a OK game. The game itself is a little bit awkward and inconsistent, but it provides enough variation (including a plethora of expansions) to make the game highly replayable. Although this type of game is not for every type of gamer, the experience that playing Arkham Horror provides can be awesome.Arkham_Horror_box

I like the theme. I like the impending doom. I like the escalating threats. I like the characters and their unique abilities. I like the encounter cards and the rolling of dice. I like the teamwork. I like the artwork.

That is about as deep as I get. Then it becomes about the players and the interaction. Is everyone having fun? Are we laughing? They don’t have Arkham Horror tournaments (and if someone does make one, they are doing it wrong).

Pro Tip: Don’t play Arkham Horror with all the expansions in one enormous game.

I know people try this, and you can google images of the board set up this way, but just don’t. Don’t do it. Let me illustrate the reasons with a story.

A few years ago, my cousin invited me over for some Arkham Horror. I was running a bit late, and by the time I arrived, the game was already set up and the game had just begun. The game was already set up with all three large expansions. The board for the game stretched across the entire kitchen table. Honestly, I wanted to bail, but I politely sat down and assumed a character.

As the game progressed, I noticed that none of us bothered to go to any of the extra locations provided in the expansions. The three extra threats weren’t being threatening. They cards that triggered those threats were simply not common enough to matter. The reason was that the deck those cards were shuffled into was just too full of other cards. Because the relevant cards didn’t show, the entire expansions simple didn’t impact the game in any positive way, and only made the game more complicated.

The game was awful. The experience, though, wasn’t so bad. Going through the motions with friends provided enough enjoyment to elevate the experience above the game itself. We had fun despite the terribleness of the particular setup. So yeah: Don’t play with all the expansions. Most of my friends suggest one large expansion and one small expansion only.

Because of the added game length (because of the number of expansions and the number of players) I had to leave before the game ended, and because of the nature of experience game, it didn’t affect the game at all. The experience went on without me.

Although I liked Arkham Horror, I feel the Eldritch Horror replaces the older game. The experience of Eldritch Horror is so similar to Arkham, and the game mechanics are much improved. Playing the game is less intrusive to the experience.

Experience Games

Today, I want to talk about experience games.

By my own definition, an experience game is one where you play against the game for a few hours as a group of friends, not really caring if you win or lose, but you just enjoy playing. Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror, Agent’s of SMERSH, Shadows Over Camelot, and Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island are prominent examples.

Generally, these games are co-op games, team games or have a traitor mechanic. Generally, losing said game doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of the experience in any way. The mechanics of the game are designed to carry the progress of a story or goal, but aren’t really the meat of the game.

In essence, the “mechanics” of the game is less important than the “experience” or “feel” of the game.

I like experience games. Let me qualify: I like experience games when played with a group of people that I like to be around. Half the fun is being with the specific group of players. I don’t love experience games, but I generally enjoy the experience of playing the game.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight a few experience games, and why I like the experience of playing them, or not. I don’t like all of these games. As @rtassicker commented on Twitter, I do not like the Battlestar Galactica game. I’ll devote a blog post to that one soon.

So, today, I’m going to end with a comment about a game I do like, which improved most other experience game for me just a little bit.

I love how Agent’s of S.M.E.R.S.H has a different player read the encounter cards. Such a simple change, but it adds to the experience of the game, especially if the reader gets into character. The first card I read in my first game started with the character the player was interacting with laughing hysterically at him, so instead of just reading the line “he laughs hysterically” I pointed at the player and laughed hysterically.

You have to play with the right people, but in this situation it worked, and we had fun.

After that game of SMERSH, I no longer play the other experience games without having the encounter cards read by the neighboring player. I was happy when joining a game of Eldritch Horror the other day with a few new players when they also read the cards this way. I highly recommend implementing that rule in Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror, and all other applicable games.